Peter Boghossian, and What Gay Pride Actually Means

I’ve never understood how someone could be proud of being gay. How can one be proud of something one didn’t work for?

-Peter Boghossian on Twitter and Facebook

Sigh.

You know, I really thought that in the atheist community, we were past this. I really thought that in the atheist community — despite some of the horrible racism, sexism, misogyny, anti-feminism, and ferocious opposition to social justice we’ve been seeing — we were overwhelmingly pro-LGBT. I really thought that, with the exception of a handful of nincompoops who we overwhelmingly disavowed, we understood the deep religious roots of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, and that we understood that fighting this bigotry was part and parcel of our fight against religious oppression. I really thought that no widely-read, widely-respected atheist author would be making ignorant jabs at LGBT people and LGBT culture, and posting snide, hostile, hurtful, “just asking questions” questions about us in public without actually bothering to ask any of us beforehand. Or rather, I really thought that no atheist author would do that and continue to be widely-read and widely-respected.

I guess I was wrong.

Okay. Fine. As a fully licensed and registered LGBT person, I will spell out to Peter Boghossian what, exactly, “gay pride” means. (Actually, to be precise, I will point out what “LGBT pride” means.)

LGBT pride does not mean being proud of having been born lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans.

It means being proud of having survived.

LGBT pride flag
It means being proud of living in a homophobic, biphobic, transphobic society — a society that commonly treats us with contempt at best and violent hatred at worst — and still getting on with our lives. It means being proud of flourishing, in a society that commonly thinks we’re broken. It means being proud of being happy, in a society that commonly thinks we should be miserable. It means being proud of being good and compassionate, in a society that commonly thinks we’re wicked. It means being proud of fighting for our rights and the rights of others like us, in a society that commonly thinks we should lie down and let ourselves get walked on — or that thinks we should be grateful for crumbs and not ask for more. It means being proud of retaining our dignity, in a society that commonly treats us as laughing-stocks. It means being proud of loving our sexuality and our bodies, in a society that commonly thinks our sexuality and our bodies are disgusting. It means being proud of staying alive, in a society that commonly beats us down and wants us dead.

It is not easy to do any of this. Despite the many advances LGBT people have made over the decades, we still live in a society that commonly thinks we should be ashamed simply for existing. It is incredibly difficult to listen to people denigrate us, taunt us, humiliate us, bully us, shame us, from the earliest days of our childhood until the day we die — and still flourish, still be happy, still be compassionate, still fight for our rights, still retain our dignity, still love our bodies and our sexualities and our selves, still survive.

It is not easy to do any of this. It takes work.

When LGBT people talk about LGBT pride, when we attend LGBT Pride celebrations, when we say we’re proud to be gay or lesbian or bisexual or trans, this is what we’re talking about. It is a hugely important aspect of LGBT history and culture. And when people mock it and denigrate it in public, many of us take it rather personally. Experience has taught us that when people treat the concept of LGBT pride with hostility and contempt, they tend to treat us — our history, our culture, our struggles for equality and rights — with hostility and contempt.

And if you’d taken five minutes to look at the FAQs of some LGBT Pride Parades, to look up “gay pride” on Wikipedia, even to just Google “gay pride,” you would have known that.

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Peter Boghossian, and What Gay Pride Actually Means

30 thoughts on “Peter Boghossian, and What Gay Pride Actually Means

  1. 3

    This is a guy who considers himself a philosopher? Philosopher of what? I always understood philosophy to be a discipline that required this thing called “thinking”.

    Perhaps Boghossian should try doing that before his next Tweet.

  2. 4

    I’m proud, because I expected to not have lived this long. I expected the homophobia, and later transphobia of the society I live in, of the majority of humans around me, to have driven me to suicide. 20-25-30, I have been continually astonished to see those birthdays. Now, I’m as out as I want to be, I don’t hate myself for existing. I look forward to getting older and am seeing amazing advances in the rights of people like me, things I never could have imagined. I’m seeing young kids not all having to go through what I did. And that progress comes from the tireless activism of other LGBTQI people. I’m stronger than I ever could have imagined, and so are my LGBTQI siblings. We have every damn right to be proud.

  3. 5

    Funny thing is I never had to work to be an atheist. I was born in an nonreligious family and have always been an atheist. But, strangely, I am proud to be an atheist. I guess I’m just wrong.

  4. 7

    “Pride” has several meanings: It can mean “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority” or “pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself,” by either of which his point makes some sense. By ignoring the definition that’s relevant, he’s being obtuse, or at least disingenuous: “a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.” It’s broadly used in this sense without at all asserting superiority: “Black pride” was a rallying cry in the civil rights movement; people are proud of their heritage; and so on.

    Tim Cook, in his thoughtful coming-out essay this week, said “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me… It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.” So there.
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-30/tim-cook-im-proud-to-be-gay

  5. 10

    Well written, concise and (imho) far more civil than Boghossian deserved. You’d think thinkleaders like him wouldn’t have to be effing well led by the nose through this 101-level shit, would you? But of course that’s not the case: “If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that about an Establishment Atheist in the last two or three years,” and all that…

    What’s interesting here is that I only became aware of Boghossian last year when he was interviewed by Minnesota Atheists about his then-new book. And in that short time and with this one stupid attitude he’s graduated, from my perspective at least, from someone almost anonymous, to someone infamous and to be avoided – yet another older white atheist with an inexplicable axe to grind about a group of people who aren’t like him.

  6. 11

    Ophelia Benson @9

    He’s deep into the whole “omigod you PC people are so offended such ideologues much closed-minded” phase.

    Damn, Boghossian. If large numbers of people tell you that you’re wrong and why you’re wrong then maybe the problem isn’t with them.

  7. 13

    Shit. Have you read the comments at the Facebook posting? Loaded with “Nooooo, the term for the opposite of being ashamed is not being ashamed!” I swear, some people never mature beyond the level of a seven-year-old telling you that you’re saying “pizza” allllllllll wrong, it’s not spelled P-E-E-T-S-A, it’s spelled P-I-Z-Z-A and so should be pronounced “pizzuh”. Or my kid brother at five insisting that since the hand lens I’d given him was not made of glass, it was and should be called a “magnifying PLASTIC”.

  8. 14

    you don’t really get it do you gretta? Pete’s view is actually a refreshing change, but people like you seem hell bent on retaining your victim status. people like you are the al sharptons and jesse jacksons of the LGBT community. you fear monger in order to justify your self importance. you actually hold back the LBGT community from progress.

  9. 16

    @soultrip #13,
    You must live in some very marvelous place where LGBT folk are not routinely victimized. Good for you. To not recognize that over most of America that is not the case is pretty narrow or dim.

    My daughter lives in a state where she cannot marry the person of her choice, cannot share her benefits, expect an easy path to visit her in a hospital if that were needed, answer questions for her if her mate were incapacitated.

    Greta’s definitions of pride are good and I share them.

  10. 17

    I don’t know WTF you are talking about, Soultrip #13. It’s like you are typing in English but bigotry is all that is coming out. Unless you are being ironic; no, that’s not it. GLBT’s still get discriminated against and beat up and kicked out of their family homes as teens.

    Anyway, Greta, I am not even gay, not born that way and I am proud of GLBT and all the survivorship.

  11. 18

    Greta:

    LGBT pride does not mean being proud of having been born lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans

    I agree almost completely with your post, except for the above. I think part of Pride is no longer being ashamed of who and what we are. It’s about taking pride in a part of ourselves, rather than being shamed. That may not be the textbook definition of pride, but language evolves and I think pride is a word that has taken on an alternate meaning in the LGBT world.

    ****

    Hank @10:

    You’d think thinkleaders like him wouldn’t have to be effing well led by the nose through this 101-level shit, would you?

    Oh, he’s a thought leader? That explains the willful ignorance. I mean, it’s not like he couldn’t have spent about 30 seconds Googling this subject.

  12. 19

    I really thought that in the atheist community — despite some of the horrible racism, sexism, misogyny, anti-feminism, and ferocious opposition to social justice we’ve been seeing — we were overwhelmingly pro-LGBT.

    And it appears we are, outside the circle of “big names.” Registrants on the American Secular Census consistently express a higher (and growing) level of support for marriage equality – more than 97% – than for any other right we ask about including abortion, accurate science education, and freedom from government-imposed religion. (See our Spring Viewpoints Analysis for details.)

    Rank and file atheists — the kind of people who take the time to fill out a survey like ours — do not appear to harbor nearly the level of prejudice that we see in some of our most prominent figures. Why is that, we wonder.

  13. 20

    @17:

    And it appears we are, outside the circle of “big names.” Registrants on the American Secular Census consistently express a higher (and growing) level of support for marriage equality – more than 97% – than for any other right we ask about including abortion, accurate science education, and freedom from government-imposed religion. (See our Spring Viewpoints Analysis for details.)
    Rank and file atheists — the kind of people who take the time to fill out a survey like ours — do not appear to harbor nearly the level of prejudice that we see in some of our most prominent figures. Why is that, we wonder.

    How representative of the atheist movement are those rank and file atheists?

  14. 22

    you don’t really get it do you gretta? Pete’s view is actually a refreshing change, but people like you seem hell bent on retaining your victim status. people like you are the al sharptons and jesse jacksons of the LGBT community. you fear monger in order to justify your self importance. you actually hold back the LBGT community from progress.

    Re soultrip @ #13: It’s always entertaining to see “speaking out against bigotry and oppression” described as “fear mongering” and being “hell bent on retaining your victim status.”

    No, not entertaining. What’s that other word.

    Oh, and unsurprisingly to anyone who reads this blog regularly: soultrip has been banned. My comment policy does not permit victim-blaming homophobic bullshit.

  15. 24

    I thought that there were two main wings of atheists: the liberals and the libertarians, but at LEAST they would agree on the things libertarians are actually right about: that what people do in their own homes is nobodies’ business but their own, as long as they’re not hurting anybody.

    The only thing I can figure out is that libertarians have been hanging out with religiocons for so long that the stupid is starting to rub off. Either that, or there’s some serious “enemy of my enemy is my friend” going on. Either way, I apologize on behalf of all straight white males, and I recognize that “all is not hunky dory in America with race/gender/sexuality” is not the same as “I hate you and everything you stand for.”

  16. 26

    So “gay pride” is really “gay not-going-to-let-you-shame-me”?
    The latter would be a terrible name for a parade, so I would support the former just for that.
    Sad, really, that our society treats people so badly, they call it “pride” just not to be ashamed of what they are.
    It’s kin, but backwards, to saying that women who won’t change their last names are “arrogant”.
    “It’s not arrogance, I’m just acting like a human being should act.”
    “Ok, fine, douchenozzle. It’s not exactly ‘pride’, I’m just acting with the same lack of shame all other human beings have.”

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